Flash Back Friday News: Kenny G Weighs In On Being An Early Investor In Starbucks

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In 1971, the Seattle, Washington based coffee chain was founded by  Jerry Baldwin,  Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker, who all met while they were students at the University of San Francisco. The trio was inspired to sell high quality of coffee by roasting entrepreneur Alfred Peet after Peet shared with them his style of roasting coffee.

Not too long after the trio began to brainstorm names that started with “st.” They would eventually come up with “Starbo,” which was a mining town in the Cascade Range. The group would later settle on  “Starbuck,” the name of the chief mate in the book Moby-Dick. According to Bowker, “Moby-Dick didn’t have anything to do with Starbucks directly; it was only coincidental that the sound seemed to make sense.”

The first Starbucks was located at 2000 Western Avenue from 1971–1976. The company would later relocate to 1912 Pike Place, and during this time, it only sold roasted whole coffee beans, and it didn’t brew its coffee. During its first year of operation, the company actually purchased green coffee beans from Alfred Peet and then started to buying directly from the growers.

Fast forward to 1984, Baldwin and the rest of Starbucks original owners would purchase Alfred Peet’s company. Three years later, the original owners of Starbucks would decide to sell the company to one of its former managers by the name of Howard Schultz; he would rebrand his Il Giornale coffee locations as Starbucks and started expanding the company.

During the time he was expanding the company Schultz was looking for early investors and some that took him up on his offer was Grammy Award-winning Saxophonist Kenny G.

Starbucks is a Seattle-based company, and I was fortunate enough to network with some of the individuals looking to invest and launch the business. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

I am always excited to be able to be involved at the beginning of a  start-up and happy for everyone one involved. Howard Schultz is a  good friend of mine and I’m always excited about his success. He deserves it because he is a fantastic person.

In a 2015 interview with Bloomberg and G shared that he was advised, Howard Schultz, to add the Frappuccino to the Starbucks menu.

At the beginning, Starbucks didn’t have anything but coffee. And there was another company, Coffee Bean, that had something called “blended” that was a sweet drink, and people were lined up around the block. And I would always call Howard and say, “Howard, there’s this thing that they do there that’s like a milkshake or whatever.” And so I think that part of the reason that they did Frappuccino was people like me giving them that kind of feedback. So I’d like to think that I was partially responsible for that.

Starbucks would later release a statement to People Magazine:

Kenny is a dear friend of Starbucks and an early investor in the company. He did provide feedback on the creation of Frappuccino. That’s true … We are very appreciative of everyone, including Kenny, who’ve been a part of the success of Frappuccino.

What do you think?

Written by Landon Buford

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